Safe-T-Opolis goes virtual to reach Alabama elementary students

Safe-T-Opolis goes virtual to reach Alabama elementary students
Children are responding enthusiastically to the new virtual version of Alabama Power's popular Safe-T-Opolis classroom presentations, teachers say. The power safety curriculum now includes the Power Play video game. (Getty Images)

When it became evident that COVID-19 would prevent groups from bringing elective educational programs into schools this school year, Kim Savage and her team had to think of a new way forward. Savage is Alabama Power’s public safety program manager and oversees Safe-T-Opolis, the company’s free, interactive program for fourth grade students that uses a tabletop model of a city charged with 11,000 volts to teach students how to stay safe around electricity.

“The safety and health of our employees and the communities we serve is our No. 1 value,” said Tanya Beal, public safety specialist. “Making a shift to a virtual format was a logical solution so that we’re still able to provide this important educational tool for teachers and students.”

Safe-T-Opolis is endorsed by the Alabama State Department of Education and is taught by specially trained Alabama Power employees called Lifeliners. Time for Q&A with the students is always included.

Alabama Power will continue to offer Safe-T-Opolis to the more than 643 schools in its service territory. In fact, presentations have already begun, and kids can’t get enough. “Teachers started asking for it in the summer. Even with everything going on, they still wanted to be able to offer the program to their students, so we knew we had to find a way to make it work,” said Savage. “So far, it’s going very well and the kids are loving it.”

Since most schools are using Google Meet to communicate with students virtually, Alabama Power plans to conduct the virtual Safe-T-Opolis program in the same way. A video of the tabletop demonstration will be shown first, followed by live interaction with a Lifeliner.

The Power Play video game is another new addition to the program and is facilitated virtually by the Lifeliners. With help from parent company Southern Company, the game was created by Alabama Power, Georgia Power and Mississippi Power to be part of each operating company’s public safety program. Power Play invites players to navigate through unsafe situations involving electricity and features minigames, puzzles, character customization and hidden features.

In March, the game was tested in person by fourth graders at Crestline Elementary in Mountain Brook, and virtually by students from Huntington Place Elementary in Northport and Oxford Elementary. The company then hosted virtual meetings with the students and teachers to get their feedback, which was incorporated into the final product. The game is now an official part of the program and has been extremely popular.

“My students loved the program,” said Theresa Jones, a fourth grade teacher at Huntington Place Elementary. “I thought it was super-easy to navigate and very interactive. I didn’t expect so many learning opportunities. Kids are growing up on video games now, and that’s why it’s such a great idea.”

Offering a video game component within an educational program is a first for the utility industry.

Many Alabama Power employees still remember learning about electrical safety as kids and now want to sign up to teach the program.

Customer Accounting Analyst and Lifeliner Carolyn Willingham recalls her mother, Alabama Power retiree Debbie Therrell, coming to her school to teach Carolyn’s class about electrical safety. “I was so excited that my mom was coming to school that day. She handed out Louie the Lightning Bug coloring books. I’ll never forget ‘Play it safe around electricity.’”

“Now both of my parents are Alabama Power retirees and I am approaching 11 years with the company. I am truly honored to share the Safe-T-Opolis program with our local fourth graders because it teaches valuable safety information that they can learn in a fun and interactive environment,” said Willingham.

Engineer Samantha Whorton also remembers participating in electrical safety programs when she was younger. “I had so much fun learning important information about how to be safe around electricity. My goal being a Lifeliner is to provide that same experience,” Whorton said. “When I present the Safe-T-Opolis program, I want the students to have fun, become more familiar with Alabama Power and, most importantly, learn how to always be safe around electricity. I know that this program can save lives and prevent injuries, and that is what motivates me.”

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